School heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems have moved from a behind-the-scenes role to a front-of-house focus now that students have returned to in-person learning. Accordingly, many school leaders and maintenance personnel have begun to wonder whether their HVAC systems are up to the challenge of keeping spaces clean, comfortable, and safe.
Inspections performed at the Education for Change Achieve Academy site (former Hawthorne Elementary School constructed in the 1930’s and expanded in the 1940’s) identified their system as antiquated. Radiators provided heat to all the classrooms and offices throughout the facility. Many of the radiators did not function well and the entire system showed severe signs of wear. The system did not provide for any air conditioning or current day air filtration and, in order to comply with Covid-19 air filtration requirements, the school introduced standalone portable air filtration units into each classroom and office space.
Without a doubt, having a new or significantly improved HVAC system carries plenty of advantages for schools and their occupants. Foremost is peace of mind in regard to the health and well-being of their students, teachers, administrators, staff, and visitors, as a good ventilation system is considered the first line of defense against airborne illness.
Equipment like air purifiers and filtration solutions that use HEPA filters don’t just scrub the air of viruses, germs, and allergens though. They can also remove fine pollutants like smoke and dust particles known to cause physical irritation in some children and adults.
Installing a new HVAC system into an 80+ year old facility over a summer break poses many challenges. As a result, some work was performed several months in advance of the main construction, including remediation of asbestos and lead in ceiling tiles and paint.
A construction of this magnitude required packing up most of the classrooms and administrative areas for the summer. Only a limited area in the classrooms was available for storage. Demolition of existing radiator units, some casework and sinks to accommodate the new equipment all required clearance area to meet OSHA requirements.
With an extensive amount of equipment located on the roof, a roof rehabilitation was also performed. The aged roof was able to be refurbished with an overlay that provided the school with a 30-year warrantied roof.
Staff and students have commented that they hadn’t realized how large of an impact that this HVAC project would have on their school. They are looking forward to the next phase.